Business Insider: Having a split credit report made it harder for me to get stable housing — but a new bill could change things for other trans and nonbinary people

July 27, 2022 – Leo Aquino

Reposted from Business Insider. Original article here.

Even though this was one of the happiest parts of my gender transition, I didn’t yet understand that the financial systems we all depend on are unequipped to take care of transgender and nonbinary people.

I experienced housing discrimination because credit bureaus didn’t process my name change correctly

After my legal name change, I took all of the recommended next steps. I updated my name and gender marker with the Social Security Administration. I dutifully waited in line at the DMV to update my driver’s license and registration. I updated my name on my bank accounts.

Six months later, it was time for me to find a new apartment before undergoing a gender-affirming surgery. While I was applying for apartments, I disclosed to potential landlords that I was transgender, explaining that they might see a different name on my past financial records.

Three reputable management companies in Los Angeles completely ghosted me after I disclosed that information, even after I paid fees associated with credit and background checks. Finally, one management company told me that they were having trouble processing my application because I had split credit reports — one under my deadname, and another under my new legal name.

I was repeatedly accused of fraud, and I had to pay extra security deposits

Desperate to secure stable housing months before receiving a major surgery, I complied with the only management company who was willing to take the time to work with me. They asked for many different forms of identification, both under my new legal name and my deadname, to verify the split credit reports. 

The management company asked why my Social Security number originated in 2004 if I was born in 1991. I explained that I am a Filipino immigrant who moved here in my teens. They then asked to see my certificate of naturalization to prove what I was saying. Luckily, I had it on hand, but I wondered how many cisgender people have to present their certificate of naturalization just to get an apartment in the first place.

When I finally got approved for the apartment, I had to set up utilities for my new home next. Because of my split credit reports, I had to go to a branch to set up one of my accounts in person because I wasn’t allowed to do it over the phone. I was also required to put down a $200 deposit to get my utilities turned on, since my split credit reports made me seem less creditworthy.

Changing my name on my credit report could take years

Of the three major credit bureaus, only Experian has publicly expressed support for the transgender and nonbinary community. And while the process to change my legal name on my credit report with Equifax is fairly straightforward, TransUnion requires trans and nonbinary people to call every individual financial institution on their report — meaning every institution you’ve ever dealt with, not just your current banks and lenders — to report their legal name change.

Every time I am required to report my legal name change to a financial institution, I worry that I’ll experience transphobia, homophobia, or other forms of violence by outing myself. Even after putting my own time and energy into reporting my legal name change, it can still take credit bureaus months to process the change.

Because of my split credit reports, I’m afraid to move out of my apartment and go through the same housing discrimination all over again. I’m afraid that this might prevent me from being able to buy a home one day — or, if I do qualify for a mortgage, it’ll only be with a higher interest rate.

A new bill proposed by Rep. Ayanna Pressley could make things easier for trans and nonbinary people

Unfortunately, my story is common in my community. A 2016 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality shows that 19% of transgender and nonbinary people have been denied housing because of their gender identity.

But a new bill, proposed today by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), could change things. If enacted, the Credit Reporting Accuracy After a Legal Name Change Act would make sure trans and nonbinary people don’t have to jump through the same hoops I have.

The bill would mandate credit bureaus to stop using deadnames and start referring to trans and nonbinary people by their correct names only. It would also direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to create a system where consumers could submit a single request to all the bureaus to have their legal name updated with the goal of ensuring that no credit history is lost and no reports are split.

Says Pressley, “In this country, your credit score is your financial reputation. The credit reporting system has perpetuated inequities that pushed our most vulnerable consumers — including our trans and nonbinary siblings — further to the margins. Passing this bill would be a meaningful step as we work towards long overdue economic justice for the trans community.”

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